Monday, April 08, 2013

Thoughts for Church Leaders - 04/08/2013

Do you ask your members to give an offering or to offer worship? Worship requires that we become the offering!

Larry



Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Another Snow Storm

Another Tuesday and another projected snowstorm. Rather than focus on my disappointment, I choose to remind myself that God is in control. I will continue to prepare for the opportunity He will set before me. Thanks for your prayers.

Larry

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Paryer Request - February 26, 2013

Things went well last Tuesday, so it doesn’t surprise me that a snow storm has been forecast for today. Please continue in prayer not only that I would declare this word but that those for whom it is intended would brave the snow to come hear it. Being good soil requires perseverance. Luke 8: 15 But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.

Larry

Monday, February 18, 2013

Commonwealth Community Church

Thank you for your prayers and encouragement. On Tuesday I begin teaching a 5-week series on giving at the Commonwealth Community Church in Chicago. This was in the works when I last contacted you. Now that the door is open please continue to pray that I may proclaim God’s message with clarity.

Larry

Friday, February 01, 2013

Prayer Request - February 1, 2013

It's a new year. My "More Than The Gift" website isn't functioning. My iTunes podcasts aren't working. I've been quiet. Yet, while I stand still God is moving and pursuing His purposes. I see glimpses of Him (even in the darkness) and hear His rustling (even in my silence). If He comes at midnight, will I be ready? I need your prayer.

Colossians 4:2-4

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ , ..... Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Generosity-Ownership-Stewardship


Here's something that just came to me last week and I wanted to share it even though I'm still researching it. The issue of stewardship versus ownership presents an interesting quandary regarding what our generosity reflects. Sometimes a discussion regarding generosity can seems to focus on the benevolence of our heart.

While God's end goal is the transformation of our hearts. The first step in that process may be our simply obedience. If we accept the fact that God is the owner and we are simply stewards of His possession, then our primary job is to be responsive to His directions, preferences and prompting for the use of his possession.

Faithful stewardship requires that we manage His possession in manner that reflects the heart of the owner, even if that does not yet reflect our own heart. The owner is generous. While we are getting there we should still act as faithful stewards. The priority of our giving should be to respond to God's will rather than our own.

However, God desires that over time our heart would reflect His heart. It is far easier to execute one's stewardship when your heart is in it. God gives His possession to us as part of His plan to transform us to become like Him, to make us generous. He enriches us that we may abound in good work. He enriches us to increase the harvest of our righteousness. He enriches us that we would become generous.
2 Cor 9: 8-11


Larry

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Why Did Jesus Ask Him To Give

Matthew 19:16-22; Mark 10: 17-22; Luke 18:18-23
In this familiar passage of scripture Jesus encountered a young rich man who asked how to obtain eternal life. Jesus initially gave the expected Jewish response. The man should keep the commandments. The man replied that he had done so. Maybe he knew this was not enough. Maybe that was what prompted his inquiry. We don't know. What we do know is that Jesus declared the insufficiency of the man's efforts and challenged the man to give sacrificially. Jesus' response baffled His disciples and still baffles believers today. Why did Jesus ask the man to give sacrificially? We often discuss the impediment that material wealth presents to our pursuit of God, but I believe the passage reveals more.
  • Mark states that Jesus looked on the man and loved him. Jesus' request seems directly connected to His love for the man.
  • Jesus saw the man's need. The man desired eternal life but was found lacking. Jesus did not request that the man give because of Jesus' need but rather as a result of the man's own need. The man needed to give to obtain the fullness of his goal. Jesus explains in John 17:3 that eternal life is our coming to know the Father (the only true God) and the Son. As we grow in that knowledge we discover that the Father and the Son are sacrificial givers.
  • Giving is an integral part of God's redemptive plan for believers. It is a requisite component of discipleship. Notice that Jesus instructs the man to give "and come, follow me." More than simply saving us from the penalty of sin, God want us to grow. He is conforming believers into His image.
  • Jesus wanted to bless the man. Jesus spoke from an eternal perspective. Our actions on earth have eternal consequences. Our giving on earth reserves treasure for us in heaven. Jesus encouraged the man to trade temporary earthly possessions for eternal treasure. Through his giving the man wouldn't lose, he would gain.
How transforming would it be if we could help people realize that God's plan for our sacrificial giving flows from the fact that He loves us, that He knows what we need, that He is revealing Himself to us and conforming us into His image and that our giving is intended to bless us.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Prayer Request

More Than The Gift’s presence on the internet has been facilitated by my use of Apple products. Over the past 2 years years the web message has reached:

53 States or U. S. Territories
93 Countries Outside of the U.S.A.
6 Continents

My prayer is that God uses the information to change perceptions, hearts and behaviors. While I’ve received over 20,000 hits, I’m aware most viewers pass by too quickly to grasp the distinctiveness of the message. However, on average, every other day someone chooses to spend an hour or more reviewing my sites, considering what God has given to me to share. I thank God for each seed planted but especially for those that take root and grow. I can’t express how humbled I am that God allows me to participate in His plan to draw us closer to Him and closer to each other.

The immediate hurdle before me is this: midyear Apple will cease support of the primary software I use to create my website and post my podcasts, iWeb. I don’t fully understand what this will mean other than knowing that my process for communicating my messages is about to change drastically. I know other software tools exist, but the great benefit of the Apple tools were their simplicity. Their ease of use and seamless integration allows me to focus on content rather than technical issues. All of the Apple products were linked so I’ve never had to worry about coding/upload/import issues. I’ll spend the next few months planning and praying about the transition. I have no doubt that God will get the glory. I don’t ask that He protect my comfort zone. I simply ask that I remain in His will. Please join me in prayer.

Your Brother In Christ,
Larry

Monday, January 02, 2012

The Three W's of Acceptable Giving

By now it should be clear that I believe the modern church suffers from a lack of a comprehensive discussion regarding God's purposes and plans for our giving. Yet, from a practical standpoint, I am aware that people also suffer from communication overload. The more we are bombarded with messaging the harder it becomes to discern that which is important from that which is simply media hype. Understanding God's purposes and plans for our giving is important but I understand the crowded context in which that message battles for attention. Today, I offer at bite-sized message for sharing and personal consumption.

Some of us wonder what makes offerings acceptable to God. For ease of reference let me suggest that acceptable offerings are characterized by "3 W's": Willingness, Worship and Worth.

Willingness
God seeks a voluntary yielding of our gifts. 2 Corinthians 8:12 states that our offerings can be accepted if there is first a willing mind. Whether the willingness is our inward desire to give or simply our desire to obey God's call for us to give, each represents a willingness. Each honors God and is honored by Him.

Worship
Sacrificial giving was intended as a part of our worship, not as a separate act. Matthew 2:10&11 illustrates it best. The Wise Men came to worship Jesus and as a part of doing so they opened their treasures to the Lord. The altar was intended as both a place of worship and sacrifice.

Worth
For our gifts to matter to God they must first matter to us. In 1 Chronicles 21:24 King David declares " I will not ... sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing." The Old Testament traditions of temple sacrifice required that the animal offered be an animal that the giver owned rather than a wild animal. The term sacrifice symbolized that the offerer gave up something, "sacrificed" something of worth to them.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Gift of Worship

The Christmas season offers a great context to consider our offertory giving. On Christmas Day we celebrate God's gift to mankind. However, in addition to the gift of His son, God granted another gift. He extended the opportunity for us to recognize who Jesus is and respond to Him. In the biblical record we see this gift received by the shepherds, by Simeon and the Magi. Each responded in their our way; the shepherds responded with witness, Simeon with praise and the Magi with worship.

The response of the Magi seems particularly instructive in respect to our giving. The Magi's acknowledgement of who Jesus is led them to extend themselves in worship. They extended themselves beyond the point of personal convenience. Their worship extended beyond simply verbal expression. They extended their physical selves and their physical possessions. They saw a connection between their worship and their giving. Their giving was an extension of their worship, not a separate activity. Their giving flowed from their worship.

This year, let Christmas remind each of us of that wonderful connection. Let us extend our offertory giving beyond the content of the gift. Give more than the gift. Give worship!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Internet Reach Update

Internet Reach - As of 11/14/11, our internet message has been received in:

52 States or U. S. Territories

93 Countries Outside of the U.S.A.

6 Continents


Praise God!


Sunday, November 06, 2011

Ministry Next Steps

It is not news to any of you that we are experiencing very tough economic times. It probably doesn’t surprise you that in response, some churches and some church members are pulling back from God’s call under the banner of good stewardship. Surveys have documented that Christian giving is down in 2011 and churches are hurting. While the symptom is financial, the problem is much deeper. Somehow, we are convincing ourselves that it is ok to balance our personal accounts by giving less to God. Churches are cutting budgets, reducing ministry efforts and reducing salaries to balance the books. Yes, Jesus calls His church to execute good stewardship, but we cross the line from stewardship to disobedience when we failed to answer His call on our lives or failed to execute the ministry to which He has called us. There is no blessing (for our churches or their congregants) in members seeking to balance their personal budgets by under-funding church support. Such an equation never balances. I'm reminded of the account in Haggai when the remnant returning from exile chose to give priority to their personal financial affairs rather than restoring the temple.

Haggai 1: 4-6

Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? Now, therefore thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. You have sown much, and harvest little. You eat , but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes. Thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways.


This warning seems so appropriate. Even those who have retained their jobs in this economy are feeling strained, frustrated and dissatisfied. Many have seen their home values and savings diminish over night; as if they were putting money in bags with holes. I think we are at a critical juncture. In times of hardship, the church needs to do more not less. Local churches will be tempted to strengthen their funding raising efforts to address their short falls. However, the real need is to raise disciples rather than raise funds. While, the subject of my message is offertory giving, I’ve never considered fundraising it’s purpose. It is not. It is a tool of discipleship, a message of relationship. It is our relationship that is under attack, not simply our budgets. Our giving is a mirror of the relationship. It let’s us see on whom we depend. It let’s us see whom we love. It let’s us see whom we serve. Jesus’ words still ring true; we cannot serve both God and money.

I have been developing a teaching outline for a bible study on my material. It summarizes the key components of the message that I believe God has given me and includes sample scriptural support for each component. It represents the most current synthesis of that message. It is a 6-7 week study (1 – 11/2 hr sessions). It expands on what I taught at Wheaton Bible Church and Second Baptist Church of Wheaton over the summer. I believe God is calling me to more aggressively pursue opportunities to teach this series. I ask that each of you prayerfully consider whether you can assist in securing opportunities for me to get the message out. If you feel moved to help, contact me. The need is great.

Yours In Christ!
Larry


Monday, August 01, 2011

Internet Bible Study - August 2011 - A Question of Motive

Giving offertory gifts that are valuable is not enough. God wants more. Why we give is as important as what we give. This discussion reviews Jesus’ teachings about improper motives for giving. The examination explores the roles of both the individual giver and the local church in protecting the purity of our motives for giving.

Reference Scripture:

Matthew 6: 1 – 4 (acts of righteousness before men)

Supporting Scriptures:

2 Corinthians 9:7 (give what he has decided in his heart)

Genesis 3:1 – 6 (Eve wanted to be like God)

Isaiah 14: 12 – 14 (Lucifer desired to be like God)

1 John 2: 15 – 16 (pride of life)

Proverbs 16:18 (pride before destruction, haughty spirit before a fall)


Click on the link to the Internet Bible Study (located in the right margin of this blog) to review the full text of the lesson.

Don't study alone. This is the worldwide web. Invite a family member, friend, someone from another state or another country to join you.

Ask questions! Make comments! Let's create a worldwide conversation.


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Praise Report

I apologize for my absence. Over the summer, God granted me opportunities to teach the More Than The Gift message at both my current church (Wheaton Bible Church) and my former church (Second Baptist Church of Wheaton). Each opportunity was a multi-week series. I've been busy formatting the material into modules suitable for bible classes. I believe that God uniquely blessed each session . I want to thank Elder Mel Preiss for inviting me to teach the Covenant Class at WBC. They have posted portions of the lessons on the Internet. I also want to thank Pastor Kevin Williams for inviting me to share again at SBC. The More Than The Gift Ministry was birth at SBC and this message is uniquely theirs. Please pray with me that the seeds planted will bear fruit.

I believe that these types of opportunities will increase in the future and that God is preparing me for the next phase of this ministry effort.

Your Brother In Christ